Q&A With New Head Chef of The Lobster: Collin Crannell Talks Changes, Seafood and Michael Cimarusti

Things are changing at The Lobster in Santa Monica, and the primary cause is the new chef patrolling the kitchen, Collin Crannell. After working a long time at various well known restaurants around town, Chef Crannell is putting his own spin on a long time Santa Monica staple known for seafood and spectacular views. Squid Ink sat down with a pint of Allagash White to talk with Chef Crannel about his past, his food loves and what's in store at The Lobster.

New top dog at The Lobster, Chef Collin Crannell
New top dog at The Lobster, Chef Collin Crannell
N. Galuten

Squid Ink: You've been working at some good places in L.A. for a long while. Where did you work before The Lobster?

Collin Crannell: I was at La Botte for the last 3 years. Before that, I was a restaurant called Chloe that's no longer around. I loved that place. The creativity and imagination was really nice, they changed the menu once a month. Before that, I was chef de cuisine at Water Grill under Michael Cimarusti for the last 2 years. He's a genius. Most intelligent chef I've ever worked for. Before that, I was sous chef at the old Patina restaurant. I worked at the actual Patina for a year, got sent to Napa, Pinot Hollywood, Pinot Pasadena and got sent out on some catering.

SI: You're relatively new to The Lobster. How long have you been here?

CC: Four weeks. Since December 1st.

SI: You liking it here so far?

CC: Love it.

SI: Any big surprises?

CC: Yeah. The amount of spiny lobsters we sell here.

SI: What drew you to the restaurant?

CC: You know, I had a little stint with Water Grill and I really enjoy working with seafood. I love the creativity you can have with seafood. Lobster, east coast fish, west coast fish, Hawaiian fish. You can be really creative. But also, I like it here because I can cook globally. It's not Italian, it can be whatever I want. I use French technique, but I can incorporate flavors from anywhere.

Si: Any interesting stuff you've been incorporating lately?

CC: I did a braised pork belly in Korean lettuce cups. Raw ahi tuna pizzas with togarashi and wasabi crème fraiche. Played with the lobster corn dog.

SI: What are some of the new things you're bringing to the table that weren't here before?

CC: I just like to bring creativity, love and passion for what I do. And my own flavor.

SI: How much do you expect the menu to change over the next few months?

CC: Seventy percent different, I would say. But with that, I'm a very seasonal chef. From here, I can walk to the Santa Monica farmers market. So that will be the main reason. That'll be the challenge. But I'll try to keep being able to serve some of the staple items for the regulars.

SI: Where do you like to eat out in Los Angeles?

CC: Oh man. Uh...right now I like Gjelina a lot. Providence. Ethnic restaurants. I love dim sum in Monterey park.

SI: Is there anything you won't eat?

CC: No. Love it all.

SI: Hardest ingredient to work with?

CC: Jellyfish. I never really work with it.

SI: What would be you Iron Chef ingredient? If you walked out to compete in Iron Chef, what secret ingredient would make you happiest to see pulled out?

CC: Olive oil. I really love my Sicilian olive oils. The one I love right now is called Primo.

SI: Do you hang out with other chefs much off duty, or are there any late night spots you tend to find a lot of chefs after work?

CC: You know, I've got a lot of friends. But I've got a wife and kids, so they get my free time. So any free moment, I'm with them. I usually catch up with the guys at the farmers market. I usually see them around there.

Check back tomorrow for a new recipe from Chef Crannell.

The Lobster, 1602 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, (310) 458-9294‎.


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